29th Jun 2014, 04:59 PM #1221
Re: Health Bulletin
Scientists uncover genes behind human language
Scientists have used a gene identified in fruit flies to discover a crucial component of the origin of language in humans.
The evolution of language in humans continues to perplex scientists who study how humans learn to communicate.
Considered by some as "operant learning," this multi-tiered trait involves many genes and modification of an individual's behaviour by trial and error.
Now, using a gene identified in fruit flies by a University of Missouri researcher, scientists involved in a global consortium have discovered a crucial component of the origin of language in humans.
"By isolating the genes involved, we can uncover the biological basis of human language," said Troy Zars, associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Arts and Science at MU.
"In 2007, our team discovered that a gene in the fruit fly genome was very similar to the human version of the Forkhead Box P (FoxP) gene and in our latest study, we have determined it is a major player in behaviour-based, or operant, learning," said Zars.
The researchers studied flies in which the FoxP gene had been modified.
In a learning experiment that comes as close to simulating human language learning as possible, flies had to try different movements with their flight muscles in a custom-built flight simulator to learn where to fly and where not to fly.
The flies were trained to avoid flying in one direction, forcing them to try different steering manoeuvres.
The team found that flies with a compromised FoxP gene failed in the task, while flies with the uncompromised gene did well and learned their movements.
This learning deficit is conceptually similar to human patients with FoxP mutations, where communication is altered.
Subsequent tests showed a change in the structural makeup of the flies' brains indicating that operant learning depends on the function of this gene to develop normally.
These discoveries suggest that one of the roots of language can be placed 500 million years ago to an ancestor who had evolved the ability to learn by trial and error, the team said.
"These findings should help in understanding how genetic bases of communication deficits arise in humans," said Zars.
The study was published in the journal PLOS One.
30th Jun 2014, 11:20 AM #1222
Re: Health Bulletin
Bad posture can cause slip disk
Do you experience pain in your back and neck after sitting long hours in office ? Bad posture can possibly be blamed for your condition. Not doing something about it can lead to major problems like slipped disc, say experts.
Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden sharp pain. If the pain lasts for more than three months it is usually termed chronic. Studies have shown that long hours sitting in the same position at the work station often in a wrong posture; faulty chairs or wrong typing technique and posture, not standing and sitting up straight can cause problems like back and ache, shoulder pain, joint pain, discomfort in the neck and pain in the finger joints and above all it can also result in slipped disc, which is a serious cause of concern.
"People today spend long hours sitting in faulty positions, and do not realize the importance of motion and correct posture for the joints and the back and it has a poor impact especially on our spine. Prolonged sitting, especially hunching over the computer screen, can cause slip disk or herniated disk,"" said spine surgeon Rahul Chaudhari of Columbia Asia Hospital.
Elaborating, Chaudhari said, "One can have a slipped disc in any part of spine, from neck to lower back. The lower back is the most common area for slipped disc. Your spinal column is an intricate network of nerves and blood vessels. A slipped disc can place extra pressure on the nerves and muscles around it."
Poor posture can become a habit, causing and aggravating episodes of back and neck pain and damaging spinal structures. The problem of slip disc can be avoided by following guidelines like sitting upright, he advised.
30th Jun 2014, 03:23 PM #1223
Re: Health Bulletin
Decline of hearing ability related to gene: Experts
In a path-breaking research which may have implications for those suffering from a decline of their cognitive and hearing abilities, Indian and American experts have established the role of a specific gene in triggering such conditions.
Experts of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and University of Louisville School of Medicine stated that the MMP-9 gene plays a major role in causing decline of cognitive and hearing functions and removal of the said gene decreases Hyperhomocysteinemia-induced cognitive and hearing dysfunctions.
Hyperhomocysteinaemia (HHcy) is a medical condition arising due to an abnormally high level of homocysteine in the blood, experts said.
"There is a role of MMP-9 in decline of cognitive and hearing functions. The ablation of MMP-9 decreases Hyperhomocysteinemia-induced cognition and hearing dysfunction. This research was carried out on mice but has large implication for humans," said Dr Seema Bhargava, lead author of the research and Senior Consultant, Department of Biochemistry, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
MMP-9 gene is a matrix metallopeptidase which helps in wound healing, cell migration, learning, memory and various other functions.
Currently, 45 per cent of adults in India between 45-92 years of age suffer from hearing impairment. Deficiency of Vitamin B-12 and folate (another form of vitamin) and high homocysteine levels have also been associated with impaired hearing in women.
"It is important to identify individuals at risk for HHcy (e.G. Elderly people)... To reduce homocysteine levels, adequate vitamin supplements should be given. However, if HHcy is already present, vitamins will take several months to reduce the concentration of homocysteine.
"Our study has advocated the role of MMP-9 inhibitors by pharmaceutical companies as a therapeutic option," Bhargava said.
The research was published in the May edition of Journal of Molecular Biology Reports.
30th Jun 2014, 03:24 PM #1224
Re: Health Bulletin
3D brain view may help treat Alzheimer's, Parkinson's
In a breakthrough that may help in developing drugs for Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders, researchers have developed a 3D view of an important receptor in the brain.
This receptor allows us to learn and remember, and its dysfunction can result in a wide range of neurological diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, schizophrenia and depression.
The unprecedented view gives scientists new insight into how the receptor - called the NMDA receptor - is structured.
And importantly, the new detailed view gives vital clues for developing drugs to combat neurological diseases and conditions.
"This is the most exciting moment of my career," said Eric Gouaux, a senior scientist with Oregon Health and Science University in the US.
"The NMDA receptor is one of the most essential, and still sometimes mysterious, receptors in our brain. Now, with this work, we can see it in fascinating detail," he said.
Receptors facilitate chemical and electrical signals between neurons in the brain allowing them to communicate with each other.
The NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor facilitates neuron communication that is the foundation of memory, learning and thought.
Malfunction of the NMDA receptor occurs when it is increasingly or decreasingly active.
The NMDA receptor makeup includes receptor "subunits" - all of which have distinct properties and act in distinct ways in the brain, sometimes causing neurological problems.
Prior to Gouaux's study, scientists had only a limited view of how those subtypes were arranged in the NMDA receptor complex and how they interacted to carry out specific functions within the brain and the central nervous system.
Gouaux's team of scientists created a 3D model of the NMDA receptor through a process called X-ray crystallography.
"This new detailed view will be invaluable as we try to develop drugs that might work on specific subunits and therefore help fight or cure some of these neurological diseases and conditions," Gouaux said.
"Seeing the structure in more detail can unlock some of its secrets and may help a lot of people," he added.
The findings were published online in the journal Nature.
30th Jun 2014, 03:38 PM #1225
Re: Health Bulletin
'Music trumps stem cell therapy'
Having experimented with several new treatments, including stem cell therapy, researchers the world over seem to be falling back on behavioural intervention and music to heal autistic children.
According to Dr Sheffali Gulati, chief of child neurology division at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), there is no conclusive evidence for the role of stem cell therapy in curing the neurodevelopment disorder and reducing its impact.
"Music therapy, on the other hand, is an extension of the behavioural therapies given to such patients. While its effect on cognitive functions is debatable, there is no risk of side-effect. We are starting a research to find out music and instruments that can benefit the most," she said.
Music therapy uses singing, live music making and composition techniques to encourage people to engage in spontaneous and creative musical activities. It is based on the theory that this can lead to positive changes in behaviour and emotional well-being.
Autistic children have difficulty in communication and social adaptation. This leads to inability to express themselves and poor understanding. This often leads to increased anxiety level and tendency to remain withdrawn.
According to medical experts, listening, singing, music-making and rhythmic movements can help by improving auditory perception and associated movement. "Music is an effective medium for non-verbal social exchange. Also, it helps build up positive emotions which further lead to reduced negative behaviours," said a doctor. He said some children on the autism spectrum respond to music, but not voices, in which case a melodic or 'singsong' voice may be preferred. "One can also try different voices and pitches, and gauge a child's reaction," he added.
In Western countries, several experiments have been carried out successfully to improve the cognitive functions in autistic children through music therapy. Some of them are-Tomatis method by Alfred Tomatis delivered by electronic ear and Samonas sound therapy. In some cases, high-frequency (close to 20 kHz), unpredictable modulations from Mozart have also been used. Researchers in India are also looking at identifying local classical music
30th Jun 2014, 03:38 PM #1226
Re: Health Bulletin
Hyderabad marks Scoliosis Day
Three out of every 1,000 children develop scoliosis which requires immediate medical intervention, experts said at a programme held to mark World Scoliosis Day in the city on Sunday.
In this condition, the spine of a patient is curved from side to side and under scanner, the spine resembles the shape of an 'S' or '?', said doctors. "I myself see around 170 scoliosis patients every year, out of which at least 70 percent require surgical intervention. As far as reasons of scoliosis are concerned, most of the patients face this problem due to congenital curve," said Dr V Surya Prakash Rao, consultant spine surgeon at Kamineni Hospital, King Koti. Due to lack of information or awareness about the condition, most patients fail to seek medical advice, said the doctor.
If Scoliosis goes unreported in such children, the spine would begin to curve and if left untreated, it could invade in the space that is required for lungs and heart, the experts said. If such cases are left neglected the spine tends to curve even further and at this point doctors suggest surgical intervention.
1st Jul 2014, 04:47 PM #1227
Re: Health Bulletin
Now, light-sensitive protein can control brain from outside
n a boost to optogenetics, a technology allowing scientists to control brain activity by shining light on neurons, the first light-sensitive molecule that enables neurons to be silenced non-invasively using a light source outside the skull has been developed.
Optogenetics relies on light-sensitive proteins that can suppress or stimulate electrical signals within cells and require a light source to be implanted in the brain.
But now engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US have made it possible to do long term studies without an implanted light source. The protein, known as Jaws, also allows a larger volume of tissue to be influenced at once.
This non-invasive approach could pave the way to using optogenetics in human patients to treat epilepsy and other neurological disorders, the researchers said.
Optogenetics, a technique developed over the past 15 years, has become a common laboratory tool for shutting off or stimulating specific types of neurons in the brain, allowing neuroscientists to learn much more about their functions.
To develop the non-invasive technique, the researchers turned to the natural world. Many microbes and other organisms use opsins to detect light and react to their environment. Most of the natural opsins now used for optogenetics respond best to blue or green light.
The researchers had previously identified two light-sensitive chloride ion pumps that respond to red light, which can penetrate deeper into living tissue. However, these molecules, found in the bacteria Haloarcula marismortui and Haloarcula vallismortis, did not induce a strong enough photocurrent - an electric current in response to light - to be useful in controlling neuron activity.
Amy Chuong from MIT set out to improve the photocurrent by looking for relatives of these proteins and testing their electrical activity.
She then engineered one of these relatives by making many different mutants. The result of this screen, Jaws, retained its red-light sensitivity but had a much stronger photocurrent, enough to shut down neural activity.
"This exemplifies how the genomic diversity of the natural world can yield powerful reagents that can be of use in biology and neuroscience," said Ed Boyden from MIT.
Using this opsin, the researchers were able to shut down neuronal activity in the mouse brain with a light source outside the animal's head.
The findings appeared in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
1st Jul 2014, 04:51 PM #1228
Re: Health Bulletin
US approves inhaled insulin to treat diabetes
US authorities have approved a fast-acting inhaled insulin to improve glycemic control in adults with diabetes.
The drug Afrezza Inhalation Powder is a rapid-acting inhaled insulin that is administered at the beginning of each meal, or within 20 minutes after starting a meal.
Over time, high blood sugar levels can increase the risk for serious complications, including heart disease, blindness and nerve and kidney damage.
"Afrezza is a new treatment option for patients with diabetes requiring mealtime insulin," said Jean-Marc Guettier, director of the Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
The "approval broadens the options available for delivering mealtime insulin in the overall management of patients with diabetes who require it to control blood sugar levels," said Guettier.
The drug's safety and effectiveness were evaluated in a total of 3,017 participants - 1,026 participants with type 1 diabetes and 1,991 patients with type 2 diabetes.
The efficacy of mealtime Afrezza in adult patients with type 1 diabetes patients was compared to mealtime insulin aspart (fast-acting insulin), both in combination with basal insulin (long-acting insulin) in a 24 week study.
At week 24, treatment with basal insulin and mealtime Afrezza provided a mean reduction in HbA1c (hemoglobin A1c or glycosylated hemoglobin, a measure of blood sugar control) that met the pre-specified non-inferiority margin of 0.4 per cent.
Afrezza provided less HbA1c reduction than insulin aspart, and the difference was statistically significant.
Afrezza was studied in adults with type 2 diabetes in combination with oral antidiabetic drugs; the efficacy of mealtime Afrezza in type 2 diabetes patients was compared to placebo inhalation in a 24 week study.
At week 24, treatment with Afrezza plus oral anti-diabetic drugs provided a mean reduction in HbA1c that was statistically significantly greater compared to the HbA1c reduction observed in the placebo group.
Afrezza is not a substitute for long-acting insulin. It must be used in combination with long-acting insulin in patients with type 1 diabetes, and it is not recommended for the treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis, or in patients who smoke.
2nd Jul 2014, 01:27 AM #1229
Re: Health Bulletin
You can learn a foreign language in your sleep, Swiss psychologists say
Subliminal learning in your sleep is usually dismissed as pseudo-science at best and fraud at worst, but a team of Swiss psychologists say you can actually learn a foreign language in your sleep.
Well, not from scratch, but a research published in the journal Cerebral Cortex by the Swiss National Science Foundation claims that listening to newly-learned foreign vocabulary while sleeping can help solidify the memory of the words.
In the study led by biopsychologist Bjorn Rasch, sixty German-speaking students were asked to learn some Dutch words that they had never seen before at 10pm. Half of the group were then allowed to go to sleep, with the words played back to them, while the other half were kept awake to listen to the words.
The first group was then woken at 2am and all sixty students were tested on the new vocabulary. The scientists found that those who had listened to the Dutch while sleeping were much better at recalling the new words.
The study — first reported by Wired.co.uk — also considered the fact that the group that was kept awake were simply performing worse because they were sleep-deprived, using EEG measurements of the sleeping leaners to show increased activity in the parietal lobe — a part of the brain important in processing language.
This isn't the same as going to bed with a 'learn French' CD and waking up with 'comment ca va?' and 'omelette du fromage' on your lips, but further testing could confirm that stimulus in our sleep helps consolidate memories.
In fact, in a study from 2012 by the Weizmann Institute of Science scientists were able to condition subjects to associate smells with certain sounds - even while they were asleep.
The researchers concluded: "This acquired behavior persisted throughout the night and into ensuing wake, without later awareness of the learning process. Thus, humans learned new information during sleep."
2nd Jul 2014, 12:35 PM #1230
Re: Health Bulletin
Agenus brain cancer vaccine doubles survival rate in study
Agenus Inc said its experimental cancer vaccine helped brain tumor patients live nearly twice as long compared with those who received standard of care treatment.
The biotechnology company's shares jumped 23 per cent to $3.96 before the bell.
The drug, when given in addition to standard treatment, extended median overall survival in 50 per cent of newly-diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) patients to two years in a mid-stage study. GBM patients, who tend to succumb to the disease within one year, are usually treated with a combination of radiation and the chemotherapy drug temozolomide.
Patients on the vaccine also showed a median survival rate of nearly 18 months without the disease progressing, which is about two-three times longer than those on traditional therapy, Agenus said on Tuesday. The company's Prophage vaccine is derived from the patient's own surgically removed tumor.
Agenus' lead experimental drug is being developed with partner GlaxoSmithKline Plc to treat malaria, melanoma and shingles. The company has also partnered with Pfizer Inc to test the drug, QS-21, for use in Alzheimer's disease.
The Lexington, Massachusetts-based company's stock closed at $3.22 on the Nasd